Critics question bailout

Protections for taxpayers sought

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Bush administration officials today defended a plan to unfreeze credit markets by buying hundreds of billions in "toxic" mortgage-related assets, saying the alternative is more failures of banks and financial institutions and a breakdown in lending that would cripple the economy.

The plan has come under fire from lawmakers of both parties, who want more targeted relief for troubled homeowners and assurances that the financial institutions that participate in the massive program won’t profit at taxpayer expense.