WASHINGTON (AP) — Negotiators on Capitol Hill are discussing ways of easing indiscriminate spending cuts that are slamming the Pentagon and domestic agencies alike.

The talks Wednesday in a dysfunctional Washington come as a sustained period of warfare among the main protagonists — Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate and Republicans leading the House — is yielding to a moment of smaller-scale talks between lieutenants of top congressional leaders.

The idea of a so-called grand bargain blending tax increases with politically difficult savings from popular benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare seems to be off the table.

Lawmakers are generally trying to put together a smaller-scale deal that would ease across-the-board cuts known as sequestration that are hitting federal agencies. Longstanding battles over tax increases still need to be resolved.