The House of Representatives was in a state of paralysis on Wednesday, ground to a halt by the ouster of Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy and with no clear sense of who might succeed him — or when.
After a historic vote to remove Mr. McCarthy on Tuesday, lawmakers quickly departed Washington and scattered to their districts around the country, abandoning the Capitol as Republicans remained deeply divided over who could lead their fractious majority.
“What now?” one Republican muttered aloud on the House floor just after the vote on Tuesday afternoon, the first time the chamber had ever removed a speaker from his post involuntarily.
It underscored the chaos now gripping the chamber, which is effectively frozen, without the ability to conduct legislative business, until a successor to Mr. McCarthy is chosen. The California Republican said late Tuesday that he would not seek the post again after being deposed by a hard-right rebellion.
The vacancy promised to tee up another potentially messy speaker election at a time when Congress has just over 40 days to avert another potential government shutdown. But it was not yet clear who might run.
Discussions on the future of the conference were being led by Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina. Mr. McCarthy had named Mr. McHenry first on a list of potential interim speakers in the event of a calamity or vacancy, but he does not have power to run the chamber — only to preside over the election of a new speaker.
While no Republican has announced a bid for the post, some names reliably come up in conversations with G.O.P. lawmakers, including Mr. McHenry and Representative Tom Cole, the Oklahoma Republican and Rules Committee chairman, as well as the No. 2 and No. 3 House Republicans, Representatives Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Tom Emmer of Minnesota.
Both Mr. Scalise and Mr. Emmer have held discussions about potential runs, according to people familiar with those private talks who described them on the condition of anonymity, and lawmakers were also exploring drafting Mr. McHenry.
“For a time such as this … Steve is the right man to lead our country,” Representative Tony Gonzales, Republican of Texas, wrote on social media, with a picture of himself and Mr. Scalise.
Representative Kevin Hern of Oklahoma was also reaching out to colleagues, and some Republicans said they would like to see Representative Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican and Judiciary Committee chairman, make a bid.
Other Republicans suggested looking further afield, given that a speaker of the House need not be a member of the body. Representative Troy Nehls of Texas wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “I nominate Donald J. Trump for Speaker of the House.”
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also took to X to say that Mr. Trump was “the only candidate for Speaker I am currently supporting.”
Any candidate would have to win a majority of the House, a tall order given the rift among Republicans that made it so difficult for Mr. McCarthy to win the post and do the job for the nine months that he held it. Right-wing Republicans have made clear that they will not support a speaker without assurances that they will see their priorities, including enacting deep spending cuts and severe immigration restrictions, met.
That is nearly impossible to promise given that Democrats control the Senate and the White House. And the situation could be a recipe for further dysfunction on Capitol Hill, most immediately in negotiations on federal spending. The House and Senate must agree by mid-November on the 12 annual appropriations bills to fund the government in the fiscal year that began on Sunday, something that cannot be done without a speaker in place.
Should a new Republican speaker be chosen, the pressure would be immense for that person to push for spending levels far below what Mr. McCarthy had agreed to in a debt deal with President Biden in the spring. Changing the terms of that deal would prompt a clash with the Senate, which is adhering to the agreement.
Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.