UPDATE 1-U.S. FCC commissioner Robert McDowell to step down

Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:42pm EDT

By Alina Selyukh

WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell, the senior member of the agency's Republican minority, said on Wednesday he will leave in coming weeks after a seven-year tenure that promoted deregulation of the Internet and the telecom market.

His exit leaves the five-member panel with three Democrats and one Republican. It may pave the way for Democratic Chairman Julius Genachowski - widely expected to leave in coming months as well - to announce his own exit, in part because a Senate confirmation of two new commissioners from both political parties can be smoother to accomplish.

Genachowski on Wednesday said he had "no news" on his plans.

Appointed by then-President George W. Bush in 2006 and re-appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, McDowell said his resignation came at a "natural inflection point" after Obama's re-election. He said he had no immediate career plans lined up.

"I have absolutely no plans other than to take my family on a much needed vacation starting this weekend," he said at the FCC's open meeting.

"This is not a time for farewells. I'm just announcing my plans to step down some time soon."

It remains unclear whom President Obama would nominate for the newly open position, but the Senate's top Republicans - Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and ranking Commerce Committee member John Thune - are expected to select the candidate.