House Democrats on Tuesday decried the vilification of so-called sue-and-settle tactics by Republicans and business groups, calling the criticism a “scare tactic” used against liberal groups.

The debate broke out in a House Natural Resources Committee hearing about potential reforms to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which environmental advocacy organizations have used as a platform to sue — and settle with — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in order to safeguard species under the law.

Democrats claimed a of factors – such as small budgets and political obstruction – often keeps federal regulators from doing their job, bringing on the suits.