* Senate Commerce Committee approves FCC nominee
* Genachowski nomination next goes to full Senate
* Second term for FCC's McDowell also approved (Recasts, adds background on nomination process, consumer group comments)
By John Poirier
WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) - The nomination of Julius Genachowski to become the next chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission took a major step forward after the Senate Commerce Committee voted on Thursday overwhelmingly in favor of the Obama administration's nominee.
The full Senate will next consider the nomination of Genachowski, a law school friend of President Barack Obama and technology industry executive.
The committee approved Genachowski 24-1, with Republican Jim DeMint the lone vote in opposition. The committee also unanimously approved a second FCC term for Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican.
Earlier this week, Genachowski told the Senate committee that he would focus on national broadband service and consumer issues, if confirmed for the FCC job. The FCC will help oversee billions of dollars in economic stimulus money that Congress allocated in incentives for states and private companies to expand high-speed Internet in rural and underserved areas.
Genachowski and his pro-consumer remarks were received warmly by the Democratic-led committee, which clashed with former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, saying his policies were too close to industry.
It was not immediately known when the Senate might vote on the two nominations.
DeMint's office did not immediately have comment on why the South Carolina senator voted against the Genachowski nomination.
Consumer groups praised the quick action by the committee and urged the full Senate to vote quickly.
"There is a lot of work to do, and we need all hands on deck at the FCC," said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press.
In the meantime Michael Copps, a Democrat, has been acting chairman of the agency. The other two current members are McDowell, a Republican, and Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat.
Adelstein is expected to leave the five-member commission.
The Senate panel is also considering another Democrat and Republican to fill two seats. Obama has nominated Mignon Clyburn, the daughter of House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, to fill a Democratic seat.
Meredith Attwell Baker is being considered for the Republican seat. Baker, a former Commerce Department official, has not been formally nominated by the Obama administration.
As an adviser and fundraiser during the presidential campaign, Genachowski headed a tech policy group and guided Obama's use of social networking on the Internet to reach out to voters.
In the private sector, Genachowski held various positions at Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp IACI.O and co-founded technology investment firm Rock Creek Ventures. He also served on the boards or as advisers to Ticketmaster TKTM.O, Web.com WWWW.O, The Motley Fool, Beliefnet, Truveo, and Rapt.
Consumer and industry groups have said Genachowski's business background and his friendship with Obama would give telecoms and new media a higher profile than during the Bush administration. Among the FCC's broad mandates are regulation of telephone and cable companies, oversight of ownership of radio and television outlets, and auctioning public airwaves.
* FCC nominee: Consumers are top priority [ID:nN16295072]
* Top News - Technology, Media & Telecoms [TOP/TMT] (Reporting by John Poirier; editing by Matthew Lewis)