Is there a way to make it so that if the person publishing a document is the same person who approves documents that they can just publish without the added step of having to approve something that they already approve of?
I don't think you can do it with simple list configuration\permissions. I think you can do it with simple SPD workflow. Remember to set the workflow settings to begin on create and on edit. I recommend trying this and doing some testing to see if it behaves as expected. Thanks!