Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects

Date of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)


Political Science


The intergovernmental relationship between the federal district and the national government has been given little significance in the subject of intergovernmental relations. This purpose of this paper is to compare the intergovernmental relationship between two federal districts in the United States and Brazil. The paper begins with a definition of federalism and its key characteristics along with an explanation of the fundamental changes in the system. This is followed by a discussion of the concepts of intergovernmental relations as defined by Deil S. Wright. The models of intergovernmental relations are used to explain the relationship between the federal districts and the national government by analyzing their legislative, administrative, and fiscal decentralization. The study proposes a model of an intergovernmental relationship between the District of Columbia and the United States Congress, and assesses the autonomy levels of both the federal districts of Brazil and the United States.

Intergovernmental relation is an area of political science concerned with the analysis of relationship between the different levels of government. In the United States, the federal and state governments receive their respective authority from the Constitution. Also, local governments are the creatures of their states, and therefore receive their autonomy from their state constitutions. In Brazil, however, the federal, state, and local governments obtain their respective autonomy from the national constitution. In view of this, Brasilia, the federal district of Brazil, is recognized as a state; whereas, in the United States, the District of Columbia is seen as a local government under the full control of the U.S. Congress. Comparatively, Brasilia has more autonomy than the District of Columbia, and this is evident in the congressional repudiation of legislation passed by the D.C. Council. The existing relationship between the District of Columbia and the United States Congress is depicted as a dominant authoritative model because the powers of Congress influences every decision made within the District.