WHAT WOULD BE wrong with bestowing statehood on Washington, D.C., and the territories of Puerto Rico and Guam? The decades-long conversation has been ramping up in Congress since January.

As for Washington, D.C., legal scholars say it would be unconstitutional and a partisan maneuver to tilt the Constitution playing field and consolidate liberal power by adding two new progressive senators. As usual in today’s environment, it comes down to politics.

Supporters of statehood in all three territories push the same argument. Without representation in Congress, the residents have a limited voice. Residents of Puerto Rico and Guam are U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote for president and they do not have a voting member in Congress.

Residents of the District pay taxes, fight in wars and contribute to economic life, but they have been denied their right to representation. They basically are disenfranchised residents. Guam residents say Americans treat them as a strategic military colony.

HR 51 narrowly passed the House when voted on, but there is broad Republican opposition and hesitation from some centrist-Democrats in the Senate. For the Senate to agree to the proposal, it would take 60 votes and only 45 senators signed on in the Democratic caucus.

It’s true that the roughly 700,000 residents of the District don’t have the ability to elect members of Congress. They do have a nonvoting delegate in the House. She is Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton. District residents also have three electoral votes in presidential elections.

Opponents of the partisan proposal have offered a solution to the intent of the effort by Democrats. The suggestion calls for Congress to return part of the District to the state that ceded it in the first place. That’s what happened in 1846, when Congress reinstated Virginia’s control over the District’s suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria.

It’s wise to note that the framers provided in the Constitution’s Article I that Congress could, by cession of particular states, control a small area in which the federal government would operate. In 1790, part of the territories of Virginia and Maryland, two of the 13 states that ratified the Constitution, were delineated for federal control.

The framers believed that residents of this area would have influence over the federal government as employees and contractors or in other positions. Their votes would be self-serving.

Here’s the compromise proposal by Republicans. If Democrats are serious about giving District residents representation, Congress could return most of the remaining territory to Maryland. That would grow Maryland’s congressional delegation by one seat and give District residents a vote in Senate elections.

The District’s 700,000 residents who are eligible to vote would have a say in electing Maryland’s two senators. An area around the White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court would remain as a 2-square-mile federal area. In past elections, District voters have cast 90% of their votes for Democrats.

If HR 51 should proceed in the Senate, it calls for the 51st state to be called the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth in honor of Frederick DougĀ­lass. The last state added was Hawaii in 1959.

Puerto Rico’s residents want statehood because it would give them equal access to benefits, assistance and money available to residents on the mainland. Puerto Ricans don’t pay federal income taxes, but they do pay payroll taxes that fund federal programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.