Chair of the House Progressive Caucus Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and guest host Steve Kornacki discussed sequestration, John Boehner's House speakership, and what exactly drives the lack of compromise on Capitol Hill on UP with Chris Hayes Dec. 30.

Kornacki said there were "conflicting reports" regarding whether sequestration would be addressed in a fiscal cliff deal but that "a lot of the speculation now is that it would not be addressed, these $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts."

As of 6:22 p.m. Sunday, Government Executive was also reporting that "a minimalist deal on the fiscal cliff appear poised to allow the dreaded tool of sequestration to chop agency budgets when federal workers return from the holidays on Jan. 2."

Kornacki specifically asked Rep. Ellison about the impact on defense spending.

"We should have defense cuts. The fact is though, they should be smarter than the sequester offers. The sequester's just like a big chop. We should go through and make wise cuts, discontinue programs we don't need," he said.

Sequestration will cut nonexempt defense discretionary funding by 9.4 percent, according to Government Executive.

"Since 2001, the [defense] budget's more than doubled, and when you look at exactly what we're spending, you wonder what we're spending it on. I can tell you, you know, a lot of kids in the military, they're not seeing their pay go way up" he said, adding as well that the U.S. doesn't need to act as the world's police force.

Moving on to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), Kornacki said it would take less than 20 Republicans to "topple" him.

But Ellison doubted Boehner would lose his speakership because too many people "know the kind of chaos it would create in the Republican conference."

He said that the "long-term serious question" was whether Boehner will put a plan up for a vote that needs a significant number of Democratic votes to pass.

"Does he really want to govern in a way where he needs Democrats to do it?" he asked. "I think that's the long-term serious question. I think it would make him a better statesperson, but at the end of the day, it's his decision to make."

Then Kornacki asked whether the fact that most members of Congress, including Ellison, come from uncompetitive districts drives the lack of compromise on the Hill.

"I think conventional wisdom is that the safe seats is driving much of the polarization because people don't feel they have to compromise" but that it's not quite as simple as it seems, he countered. Ellison argued that he himself works to find points of compromise with Republicans.

Ellison pointed to outside groups that "get Republican members to sign pledges" and punish moderates with primary challenges. "That to me is the real problem," he said.

He said that he was willing to vote for a plan that included compromises but "We won't let the poor pay for this. We just won't do it."

Watch the video, via MSNBC, below.

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